The cause of the Lytton, B.C., wildfire that is believed to have destroyed 90 per cent of the village’s buildings and killed at least two people remains under investigation Friday.
Due to unsafe conditions in the village and the evacuation order still in place, officials have not yet been able to enter Lytton since the fire swept through Wednesday night.
Residents reported the fire started quickly and it seemed to pick up within minutes. Some had no time to grab anything from their homes as they were forced to flee the oncoming flames.
Austin and Genevieve Doyle had driven to Lytton on Wednesday morning as they were getting ready to list their house there. When they went to the real estate office to sign papers, Austin said their son remarked to them that they could see a train braking and coming to a stop at the other end of town.
“I looked at it and right away, it was just ‘boom,’ there was tons of smoke coming from that end of town,” Austin told Global News.
Their house is right below the train tracks that run through the village.
“I just thought about it immediately. It’s 46 degrees out and they’re putting the brakes on and it’s windy,” Austin added.
He would like to see an inquiry into what happened.
“It’s just irresponsible and preventable,” he said. “There needs to be a federal review of this.”
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CN Rail and CP Rail both have tracks that pass through the Lytton area.
In a statement to Global News, CN Rail said “We want to offer our support to the people of Lytton and we are committed to assisting this community during this tragic event. CN will offer its full assistance to help authorities identify the causes of this tragic incident.”
Speaking to Global News on Friday afternoon, former Lytton mayor Chris O’Connor said in his mind, there’s no doubt the fire was started by a train going through the area.
“Between CN Rail and CP Rail and the federal and provincial government, I mean, in our community we’ve got this ribbon of steel that runs through our community, that basically is the anchor for the Canadian economy,” he said.
He said he would watch 30 trains go by every day just from the deck of his former house.
Austin said he is almost certain a train started the fire.
“It’s terrible for all those people,” he said.
“I want whoever is responsible for all this, for these people’s lives, to be held accountable.”
In a statement to Global News, CP Rail said it has “coordinated with emergency responders as they respond to the situation.
“Our focus is on assisting emergency response operations in the region, including the Village of Lytton and the Lytton First Nation.
Regarding any speculation as to the cause of the Lytton fire, contact B.C. Wildfire Service for the latest on its investigation. CP will fully cooperate with investigators as called upon.
The Doyles were luckily able to save their house from the fire.
When they saw the smoke starting to rise they jumped into action, getting their sprinklers going and hosing down their property.
“(The fire) was catching down on the house,” Genevieve said, “so I did my best to grab a bucket but I couldn’t do it so I just started screaming for (Austin).”
One of their tenants then came back and helped keep the flames from burning down their house.
A helicopter pilot also helped dump some buckets of water on the house.
Genevieve said she would run around the property looking at the hot spots that were catching and tried to keep an eye on what was happening.
“If you panic, that’s it then,” she said, knowing she had to keep a calm head.